World Cup safety guards nonetheless jailed in Qatar after dispute over unpaid wages | Employees’ rights

A man poses in front of a sign saying World Cup Qatar 2022 has his picture taken

Three World Cup safety guards who had been detained whereas attempting to resolve a dispute over unpaid wages are nonetheless being held in Qatar 4 months after their arrest.

Shakir Ullah and Zafar Iqbal from Pakistan, and an Indian nationwide, have allegedly been sentenced to 6 months in jail and fined 10,000 riyals (£2,220) every.

The findings, first established by the human rights group Equidem and verified by the Guardian, are a stunning postscript to the World Cup, which Fifa promised would depart a long-lasting legacy of higher employees’ rights within the Gulf state. Qatar has not commented on the case.

The three males had been amongst tons of of safety guards, employed by Stark Safety Companies, an area personal safety firm, who had been deployed at key websites all through the World Cup however had been laid off within the days after the ultimate, with months nonetheless left on their contracts.

Ullah, who was affectionately generally known as chacha (uncle in Urdu) by his colleagues, was described by one as a “calm, quiet individual, however in terms of his rights, he won’t help you cheat him”.

Calling for the fast launch of the three males, Equidem’s director, Mustafa Qadri, stated the boys had been punished for merely demanding what they and tons of of their colleagues had been owed after their contracts had been terminated early.

“That is the true price of Fifa’s reckless disregard for the rights of people that assist them generate big earnings,” Qadri stated.

Lots of of different former Stark Safety employees are additionally coming to phrases with their very own traumatic ordeal after disputing the early termination of their contracts.

Whereas Lionel Messi lifted the World Cup trophy in Qatar after what Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino, referred to as the “greatest ever” World Cup, Jacob* and Patrick*, from Kenya, had been instructed they had been being fired.

That they had spent a lot of the match working as safety guards at Stadium 974, which hosted matches involving Argentina, Brazil, France and Portugal and stars equivalent to Messi, Mbappé and Ronaldo.

They are saying the message got here as a shock, as a result of their contracts nonetheless had three months left to run. They had been then instructed to gather their closing wage for the times they’d labored in December and go away their lodging.

Simply days after the ultimate they instantly discovered themselves jobless and homeless. “After they wanted you, they handled you effectively, however now they’re executed with you, you’re nothing to them,” stated Jacob.

A man poses in front of a sign saying World Cup Qatar 2022 has his picture taken
Employees interviewed by the Guardian believed they’d been employed for six months however allege that their jobs had been terminated early. {Photograph}: Pete Pattisson

Worse was to return: after making an attempt to dispute the early termination of their contracts, the 2 males had been allegedly detained and deported together with tons of of others.

“They are saying it was essentially the most stunning World Cup, however on the finish of the day we simply misplaced every little thing,” stated Patrick.

Within the months main as much as the World Cup, Stark Safety took on tons of of safety guards to be deployed at key match websites. “As a result of it was Fifa, all of us stated ‘let’s be a part of’,” stated one other employee from Ghana.

The Guardian interviewed 9 safety guards who labored for the corporate, together with Jacob and Patrick, all of whom had their employment terminated early. 4 had been allegedly later deported and 5 others had been fired on the similar time or shortly afterwards however weren’t deported.

The employees’ contracts, seen by the Guardian, promised a month-to-month wage of two,700 riyals (£600) for working seven days every week, in addition to offering them with meals and lodging.

The 9 employees interviewed by the Guardian all believed they’d been employed for six months. Their contracts said: “Discover interval: six months publish date of becoming a member of.” Below reforms made to Qatar’s labour legal guidelines in 2020, employers and employees can finish contracts early, however they need to give one month’s discover.

“We went to Qatar to earn cash and make a greater life for our household, however the firm and authorities cheated us,” stated one other fired safety guard from Pakistan. “We felt so helpless.”

With nowhere else to remain, no option to repay the massive money owed they’d taken on to get to Qatar and few different jobs out there as soon as the World Cup had completed, Jacob, Patrick and tons of of different safety guards tried to barter with Stark Safety and filed a criticism with the Qatari authorities.

“We instructed them: we’re nonetheless keen to work,” stated Jacob. “We’ve not failed you in any method, we’ve got not dedicated any crime; should you want to cease [employing] us, it’s a must to compensate us for these three remaining months.”

However Stark Safety instructed them that there was no extra work because the match was over, and, in line with the employees, ordered the labour camp to cease serving meals to them. “They saved coming to the lodging and threatening us, banging on our door so we would depart,” stated Jacob.

On 23 January, about 200 of the guards employed buses to take them to the headquarters of an organization related to Stark Safety to barter for his or her unpaid wages. Workers allegedly referred to as the police and claimed the employees had been blocking the highway. The guards stated, other than their leaders, they didn’t even get off the buses.

The employees had been allegedly taken to a detention centre by the police, with greater than 200 later deported, together with the 4 males interviewed by the Guardian, who had been on the buses.

Ultimately, with no different choices, the boys interviewed by the Guardian accepted their wages for the times they’d labored in December. Any hope they is perhaps paid for the remaining months of their contract was misplaced. They stated that they, together with all the opposite males detained with them, had been deported inside every week. Solely Shakir Ullah and his two colleagues remained.

Equidem stated it had interviewed 43 males who had labored for Stark Safety and allegedly had their contracts terminated early and been deported.

For individuals who say they had been compelled to return dwelling, the sense of shock and shock continues to be uncooked. Some blame the Qatari regime. “Nothing occurs with out its data. We must always have gotten our rights if the Qatar authorities had cared,” stated Jacob.

However that anger can be directed at Fifa, which made $7.5bn (£6bn) over the 4 years main as much as the Qatar World Cup. “Fifa made large cash from the World Cup and we deserve our share,” stated a guard from Ghana.

A spokesperson for Qatar authorities’s worldwide media workplace stated an investigation discovered that Stark Safety had did not adjust to all of Qatar’s labour legal guidelines and could be penalised.

It confirmed the employees had been employed on non permanent six-month contracts, however “a decision was swiftly reached between the corporate and its staff, whereby the employees had been remunerated in full for his or her companies and their contracts had been concluded in accordance with their specified phrases”.

It didn’t verify if any of the employees had been deported, however stated: “Qatar doesn’t arrest or deport employees for searching for to resolve their employment disputes. The rights of all people working in Qatar are upheld and guarded by way of the honest and simply utility of authorized due course of.”

Fifa directed the Guardian to an earlier assertion it made on the case, through which it stated it “seeks to facilitate discussions at host nation degree, to discover out there choices for treatment”.

Stark Safety Companies didn’t reply to requests for remark. Qatar’s native World Cup organising committee declined to remark.

Further reporting by Praveen Yadav.

* Names have been modified to guard people’ identities.